Council Leader and Lead for Education Contact Government Over Testing Concerns

READING Borough Council’s Leader and Lead for Education have written to the Secretary of State for Education expressing serious concerns that schools in Reading will be forced into rolling closures unless testing capacity is increased.

Councillors Jason Brock and Ashley Pearce have today (Sep 16th) jointly contacted Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, to add their voices to many teaching staff across the country on how a lack of current testing capacity could see teaching staff and pupils being forced to isolate for 14 days, paralysing schools in the process.

School communities across Reading have made tremendous efforts to prepare for the start of a new school year. On September 8th schools in the borough were up to 86% of full capacity. Teaching staff continue to work tirelessly to ensure social distancing measures are in place, there is regular handwashing by pupils, respiratory hygiene guidelines are followed and that swift action is taken whenever there is a positive test in any school community.

The joint letter says: “Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that a failure of capacity on the laboratory side to cope with demand for Covid testing is likely to undermine all this hard work.”

Councillor Brock and Pearce’s letter states:

“Whilst our infection rates in Reading remain below the level that would add us onto the Government watchlist we have, like many other parts of the country, seen a steady increase in cases over the last few weeks. Without adequate testing capacity in place, teaching staff and pupils are being forced to isolate for 14 days whenever there is any suspicion of a case. This will continue to put enormous pressure on already exhausted staff at a time when they are dealing with many additional demands, including understandable parental anxiety.”

Councillors Brock and Pearce go on to say:

“If there is not sufficient teaching capacity in place, or teaching staff and pupils are not added to the priority list for testing, there will likely be partial rolling closures of schools in Reading. The subsequent disruption to children’s education, and on working parents, will be enormous. This is a return to lockdown by default.”

The Leader of Reading Borough Council and Lead Councillor for Education are calling for the Government to ensure adequate testing capacity is urgently put in place, or that teaching staff, children and young people are prioritised for testing, alongside other key workers already prioritised in the public sector.

Ends.

For a copy of the full letter  please contact Reading Borough Council’s Press Office.

Oscar Mortali

For media enquiries about this release email oscar.mortali@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 2301